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Teenagers and Legalizing Marijuana for Recreational Use

Perspectives On Marijuana: Expert Opinion

Washington and Colorado were the first two states to legalize marijuana for non-medical use. And many more have legalized it for medical use. What’s more, public momentum for legalizing the drug nationwide is growing. Just this week, the Pew Center for Research published a poll showing that the majority of Americans are now in favor of marijuana legalization. Fifty two percent of Americans now say it should be legal, up from 45 percent in 2010. The younger generation is even more in favor: 65 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 32 say it’s time for marijuana to be legalized for recreational use.

But questions on marijuana remain. In particular, many addiction experts worry that legalizing marijuana will inevitably put more teenagers in addiction’s way. They point out that any drug, including alcohol, has the potential to be addictive to some people. And the developing brain is even more vulnerable to a drug’s addictive qualities. So why go there? Moreover, say these specialists, there’s evidence that teenagers who are already smoking marijuana may be more inclined to try a harder drug, such as heroin, when offered.

Mixed Messages for Teens

We hope you enjoy reading our 360 on the legalization of marijuana. We also invite you to join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

Read the first article in the series, in which Dr. Joseph Shrand, the medical director of an adolescent treatment center and a psychiatry instructor at Harvard Medical School, shares his thoughts on this issue. Does he think it’s a good idea? “Just because you put the word recreational in front of it doesn’t mean it’s safe,” he says. “It sends a very mixed message to teenagers.”

Two parents and a teenager also weigh in. Is marijuana just as acceptable as alcohol? Or is marijuana really that big of a deal? Everyone has an opinion on marijuana. What’s yours?